Have you ever noticed people walking with sticks even on flat surfaces and wondered why they were doing it? It’s called Nordic walking, which is a bit like cross-country skiing but without the snow.
Walking with poles was first developed in Scandinavia and came to Central Europe about 20 years ago. For some reason it has not become particularly popular even though it has many health benefits.
Here’s why – plus some great reasons to try Nordic walking.
1. You burn more calories
As early as 1995, researchers noticed that Nordic walking burned more calories than normal walking. In fact, they found it burned up to 18% more calories than regular walking.
Numerous studies have since confirmed these findings – which is why it’s suggested that Nordic walking could be a great form of exercise for those looking to lose weight. An Italian study even found that overweight people lost weight faster when doing Nordic walking compared to regular walking.
Although Nordic Walking does not burn more calories than other more intense forms of exercise, such as running, it can be a great low-impact exercise option or a way to increase the benefits of your regular daily walks.
2. It can reduce limb pain
Using poles while walking can distribute your weight across your arms and torso, reducing pressure on your back, knees, and hips. In theory, this has the potential to improve back pain while walking.
However, the research is mixed, with some studies showing that Nordic walking can reduce lower back pain and impact on the knees, while others show that it is no more helpful than regular walking.
If you are someone who suffers from pain in your lower back, hips or knees, Nordic walking could be useful for you since it redistributes your weight somewhat. But it’s worth discussing with your doctor before trying, and stopping if your pain persists even when using the sticks.
3. Improves upper body strength
Nordic walking puts more strain on your arms and shoulders than normal walking, which could improve your strength. Research has shown that Nordic walking can not only increase hand grip strength, but also increase shoulder muscle activity.
Upper body strength – including your grip strength – is important for many things we do every day, from carrying our groceries to filling the kettle. Increasing muscle strength is also important to help prevent injury because it helps stabilize joints and protects them when moving under impact, such as carrying heavy shopping bags.
Read more: The strength of your grip says a lot about your health
4. Increases Core Strength
Nordic walking also engages the core muscles (including those in the abdomen and back) more than regular walking.
Greater engagement of the core muscles will help strengthen them, which in turn can improve posture. Better core strength can also improve your balance as well as your ability to move.
5. Reduce the risk of falling
Unfortunately, as we age, we are more likely to trip and fall when walking. This is mainly due to a decrease in muscle strength, balance problems and walking problems.
The advantage of Nordic walking is that you place the poles in the ground at the same time as you use your legs. This improves balance and makes you less likely to fall.
In fact, one study even showed that people who followed a Nordic walking training program for three weeks had improved balance, even when walking without poles. It’s no wonder Public Health England recommends Nordic walking for improving balance in older people.
6. Improves Cardiovascular Health
Research shows that Nordic walking can improve cardiovascular fitness in as little as four weeks.
Another study on obese women also showed that Nordic walking could improve blood pressure, but only to the same extent as regular walking. Additionally, Nordic walking in postmenopausal women has been shown to improve resting blood sugar levels, which is important for preventing diabetes and improving blood cholesterol levels.
7. You can walk faster
Nordic walking can help you get where you want to go faster than regular walking. In fact, one study showed that Nordic walking increased average walking speed by up to 25% compared to regular walking. By walking faster, you can then burn more calories. So if you did a 30-minute Nordic walk, you would be able to walk further and burn more calories than normal walking.
There seem to be clear benefits to Nordic walking. This can be especially useful for people who don’t like other types of exercise, like running, but still want to do something with a higher intensity than brisk walking.
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